18 Nov 10

Budget cuts bite north of the border

The proposed public sector pay freeze will be no surprise, given what has happened south of the border and statements in the press. The Scottish Parliament will, of course, make the final decision. However, it is still disappointing that a two-year freeze is being proposed for teachers and associated professionals.

The short-term proposals, which include cutting teachers' maternity pay and ending salary conservation as well as placing all supply teachers on point 1 of the main grade scale, would make significant changes to existing terms of employment.

The quid pro quo of avoiding compulsory redundancies has to be looked at seriously. However, it should be remembered that the education force overall has been considerable reduced over the past year and will be in the future, with many experienced teachers leaving the profession early, fewer student teacher places at colleges and the loss of classroom assistants and reduction in numbers in many of the services provided such as music tuition. These proposals will be discussed at the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers (SNCT).

The announcement that all probationers in 2011 will be secured places, along with vacancies for post-probationers, provides some hope for our young teachers, but how will this to be sustained and for how long?

Education Secretary Mike Russell had already indicated that the McCrone agreement of 2001 (A Teaching Profession for the 21st Century) should be revisited and Finance Secretary John Swinney announced yesterday that there would be an independently chaired review of McCrone. This review is to take place between January and June 2011, with the agreed changes to be implemented by August 2012.

Voice would be very concerned if this review resulted in unacceptable changes to teachers' terms and conditions, given that the commitment to implement Curriculum for Excellence has been assured by the Scottish Government.

If there is a reduction in non-class contact time, then it will be very difficult to maintain the same level of preparation, which will put additional pressure on staff.

The future of education is everyone's future so it is important that everything possible is done to ensure that the valuable services provided by all those involved in education are not irreparably damaged for generations to come.

Those who work in the public sector find it difficult to understand why they should pay the price for the mistakes and greed of the banking sector, which they, as taxpayers, bailed out with public money, leaving a huge hole in the nation's finances, while the bankers continue to pay themselves enormous salaries and bonuses without paying back what they owe to the rest of us.

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